Frequently Asked Questions

anatomy learning center

Why should I consider donating my body to science?

The unique and priceless gift of the human body provides the opportunity for knowledge that is the foundation of medical education and scientific research. In both instances, the need for donations is great, and the gift is valued and honored beyond measure.

How does the registration process work?

Upon request, a donation application will be mailed to you with a return envelope or download by clicking on the button below. Upon receipt of the completed application, the Willed Body Program will notify you regarding your acceptance as a registered donor, and an identification card will be sent to you. Your family and health care providers should be notified of your wishes and informed of the contact procedure.

Downloadable UCSF Willed Body Program Donation Form

Who can donate a body?

Any adult (18 years and older) can register with our program prior to death. If a person has died and is not registered with the program, the person appointed as power of attorney for healthcare or the decedent’s legal next of kin can sign the necessary forms. 

Does age, disease, weight, or amputation make the donation unacceptable?

There is no upper age limit for whole body donation, nor does amputation preclude acceptance. Medical conditions that will prevent acceptance as a donor include Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, hepatitis B or C, HIV, and active tuberculosis. Extensive trauma at the time of death or advanced decomposition would also make the remains unsuitable for anatomical study. Due to the nature of our preparation process, we are unable to accept donors weighing over 300lbs.  

What about autopsies?

Information learned from autopsies is sometimes of importance to the donor’s physician or family, and in some instances, an autopsy is required by law. However, the value for anatomical study of an autopsied body is limited, and we generally do not accept autopsied donors into the Program.

May I still be an organ and tissue donor?

Generally, yes. We address instances of organ and tissue donation on a case-by-case basis, but the organ and tissue donation usually does not prevent us from accepting a donor into our program.  

What happens after our studies are completed?

After studies are completed the remains are cremated and scattered at sea. Due to the undetermined length of time and how the body may be used for study, cremated remains are not returned for private disposition, and no notification of final disposition will be sent to the family. 

What expenses are involved upon the death of the donor?

The Program will arrange and pay for the cost of transporting the body if a death occurs within Northern California. If a mortuary is involved, mortuary fees will be the responsibility of the donor family. If a death occurs outside of Northern California, the Program may arrange for the body to be accepted by another University of California Donated Body Program closer to the place of death or may decline to accept the donation of the body.  

Should the donor inform someone of the donation?

Yes. Discuss your plans with those close to you so that your wishes are clearly understood. It is also advisable for a donor to notify his or her physician and attorney of the arrangements.

May I donate someone else’s body, such as my spouse?

Registration of another person cannot be done while that person is living. However, after the individual’s death, the spouse or nearest living next of kin may donate the body.

What if the death occurs in another state?

A medical school in the State where the death occurred may be contacted for donation.  

Will any payment be received for the body?

No payment may be made in connection with a body donation. This policy is in accordance with State laws, and all institutions accepting human remains must comply with it.   

If a bequest is made, and the donor has a change of mind later, can the gift be rescinded?

Yes, if the request to rescind is made in writing by the donor. Mail to:
UCSF Willed Body Program
School of Medicine, AC-14
UCSF Box 0902
San Francisco, CA 94143

Will my family receive a report of medical findings or study details?

No, we do not provide reports to the donor family. Certified copies of death certificates can be obtained through the Department of Birth & Death Registry in the county in which the death occurred.

What is the procedure upon the death of the donor?

The next of kin, spouse, executor, or hospital personnel should call the Willed Body Program office at (415) 476-1981 and choose option 1.  The call is immediately answered, 24 hours a day.

If you have any additional questions, please call the program at 415-476-1828